Chatter: Syria getting a lot worse very fast, warns UN




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Need to know:
The crisis in Syria is getting a lot worse – fast.

That's the stark warning from the United Nations, whose humanitarian office told the Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva today that as many as four million Syrians will require aid by early next year. Two and a half million need it already. There are currently almost 400,000 known refugees in the countries surrounding Syria; the figure will be 700,000 within months if the civil war continues at its current, devastating pace. Turkey says 9,000 Syrians crossed its border last night alone.

Meanwhile the Syrian National Council, the most prominent opposition group, is meeting in Qatar to decide whether to unite with other military and political groups. The merger would bring it recognition from other countries, and with it, the more practical benefits of funding and, potentially, military aid.

What's President Bashar al-Assad up to amid all this? Oh, just reminding interviewers that: "We do not have a civil war... If the Syrian people are against me, how can I be here?" How, indeed.

Want to know:
There's still no comment from Iran on the Pentagon's revelation that Iranian forces fired on one of its surveillance drones.

A warplane shot at the US aircraft repeatedly as it carried out "routine surveillance" some 16 miles off the coast of Iran, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday. The incident, which happened a week ago, was kept quiet until now, but defense officials said Washington had already sent a formal warning to Iran.

Iran has not yet responded publicly – other than to warn, via state media, that "if any foreign aircraft seeks to enter our country's airspace, our armed forces will confront it."

Dull but important:
Anglicans have a new spiritual leader. Eight months after Rowan Williams announced he was stepping down as the head of the Church of England, Justin Welby has been selected to take his place.

The Right Reverend Welby, Bishop of Durham (to give him his full title) will become Archbishop of Canterbury in March 2013. When he does so, he'll be responsible for not only the Church in England, but some 77 million Anglicans worldwide.

Bishop Welby – who used to be an oil executive before the death of his daughter prompted him to enter the priesthood – faces a tough job to unite his vast global flock, who range from the relatively liberal to the extremely conservative – especially in Africa, where more than half of all Anglicans worship. Williams never managed to reconcile the warring factions; can Welby, a renowned mediator, save the Church from a split?

Just because:
The first rule of SEAL Team Six? Don't talk about SEAL Team Six.

But if you will insist on, oh, killing Osama bin Laden and rescuing aid workers from Somali pirates, you can't expect other people not to talk about you. In the past two years, the elite US special forces unit – which, technically, doesn't even exist – has become the subject of TV documentaries, movies and countless novelty T-shirts.

Lo and behold, it seems not even Navy SEALS are immune to the call of fame. Two months ago, a book came out that purportedly offered one Team Six member's firsthand account of the mission that killed bin Laden. And now, seven members have been disciplined for helping to design the latest 'Medal of Honor' video game.

Developers paid the troops, all of whom are on active duty, to give the game "a dotted line to real world events." The Navy reprimanded them and put them on half wages for two months, apparently as an example to others who've forgotten that silence is golden.

Strange but true:
Sibling rivalry is a cruel thing. We're sure the Kenyan woman who gave birth to twins shortly after this week's US election loves both her boys equally, but you've got to wonder what being named Barack and Mitt will do to the brothers.

New mother Millicent Owuor, who hails from the village where President Obama's father was born, said she wanted to remember the elections a long time. Her sons certainly will, whether they want to or not.

Baby Barack was born first; Baby Mitt was not. Baby Barack heard local residents chant his namesake's surname in joy after results were announced; Baby Mitt, unsurprisingly, did not. Still, it could have been worse: at least it's not George and Al. Or George and Bill. Or Abel and Cain. Yep, on second thoughts, Mitt and Barack will be just fine.